Discussions between Labour and Tories over changes to Brexit deal make some progress – but even if May finally learns to compromise, measure to legally protect compromise from May’s successor, whether Johnson or another hard-Brexiter, would be essential
There have been limited positive signs in discussions between Jeremy Corbyn’s team and the Tories about possible changes to May’s Brexit plan that might allow its passage through Parliament.
While the Tories are briefing media about a possible ‘temporary’ customs union, Labour would not accept a deal that would not protect it from May’s eventual – or speedy – successor, likely to be a ‘hard Brexiter’ such as Boris Johnson.
Hence the ‘Boris lock’.
Labour is likely to press for a legal guarantee that the Transition Period of any withdrawal agreement extends beyond June 2022 – meaning that there would be a general election before the UK’s new relationship with the EU takes effect.
This would ensure UK voters could block any ‘Brexit ultra’ fantasy of a ‘Canada-style’ Brexit or worse. If the next Tory leader wished to overturn the law-based guarantee, s/he would have to gain a parliamentary majority for new legislation – which would be essentially impossible, at least without a general election to change the composition of MPs.
Any deal Labour might agree to back in Parliament would include such a ‘lock’, as well as the changes needed on a customs union and other areas, before it was put back to MPs in a Commons vote.
This route would also fit with the NEC’s recently-renewed commitment to enacting Brexit as long as a form can be found that protects the country from the worst effects of Tory incompetence, arrogance and greed.
May’s inability to think flexibly still makes any agreement between the parties an uphill prospect, but the bones of something that might work – for the good of the nation and the protection of its people – are starting to emerge.
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